Russiagate Becomes Israelgate

Who was corrupting the American political system?

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review (December 05 2017)

Reading the mainstream media headlines relating to the flipping of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to provide evidence relating to the allegations about Russian interference in America’s last presidential election requires the suspension of one’s cognitive processes. Ignoring completely what had actually occurred, the “Russian story” with its subset of “getting Trump” was on display all through the weekend, both in the print and on the live media.

Flynn’s guilty plea is laconic, merely admitting that he had lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) about what was said during two telephone conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, but there is a considerable backstory that emerged after the plea became public.

The two phone calls in question include absolutely nothing about possible collusion with Russia to change the outcome of the US election, which allegedly was the raison d’etre behind the creation of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel office in the first place. Both took place more than a month after the election and both were initiated by the Americans involved. I am increasingly convinced that Mueller ain’t got nuthin’ but this process will grind out interminably and the press will be hot on the trail until there is nowhere else to go.

Based on the information revealed regarding the two conversations, and, unlike the highly nuance-sensitive editors working for the mainstream media, this is the headline that I would have written for a featured article based on what I consider to be important: “Israel Colluded with Incoming Trump Team to Subvert US Foreign Policy”, with a possible subheading “FBI Entraps National Security Adviser”.

The first phone call to Kislyak, on December 22nd, was made by Flynn at the direction of Jared Kushner, who in turn had been approached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had learned that the Obama Administrating was going to abstain on a United Nations vote condemning the Israeli settlements policy, meaning that for the first time in years a UN resolution critical of Israel would pass without drawing a US veto. Kushner, acting for Netanyahu, asked Flynn to contact each delegate from the various countries on the Security Council to delay or kill the resolution. Flynn agreed to do so, which included a call to the Russians. Kislyak took the call but did not agree to veto Security Council Resolution 2334, which passed unanimously on December 23rd.

The second phone call, made by Flynn on December 29th from a beach in the Dominican Republic, where he was on vacation, may have been ordered by Trump himself. It was a response to an Obama move to expel Russian diplomats and close two Embassy buildings over allegations of Moscow’s interfering in the 2016 election. Flynn asked the Russians not to reciprocate, making the point that there would be a new administration in place in three weeks and the relationship between the two countries might change for the better. Kislyak apparently convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin not to go tit-for-tat.

In taking the phone calls from a soon-to-be senior American official who would within weeks be part of a new administration in Washington, the Russians did nothing wrong. It would not be inappropriate to have some conversations with an incoming government team. Apart from holding off on retaliatory sanctions, Kislyak also did nothing that might be regarded as particularly responsive to Team Trump overtures. If it was an attempt to interfere in American politics, it certainly was low-keyed, and one might well describe it positively as a willingness to give the new Trump Administration a chance to improve relations.

The first phone call about Israel was not as benign as the second one about sanctions. Son-in-law Jared Kushner is Trump’s point man on the Middle East. He and his family have extensive ties both to Israel and to Netanyahu personally, to include Netanyahu’s staying at the Kushner family home in New York. The Kushner Family Foundation has funded some of Israel’s illegal settlements and also a number of conservative political groups in that country. Jared has served as a director of that foundation and it is reported that he failed to disclose the relationship when he filled out his background investigation sheet for a security clearance. All of which suggests that if you are looking for possible foreign government collusion with the incoming Trumpsters, look no further.

And it should be observed that the Israelis were not exactly shy about their disapproval of Obama and their willingness to express their views to the incoming Trump. Netanyahu said that he would do so and Trump even responded with a tweet of his own expressing disagreement with the Obama decision to abstain on the vote, but the White House knew that the comment would be coming and there was no indication from the president-elect that he was actively trying to derail or undo it.

Kushner, however, goes far beyond merely disagreeing over an aspect of foreign policy as he was trying to clandestinely reverse a decision made by his own legally constituted government. His closeness to Netanyahu makes him, in intelligence terms, a quite likely Israeli government agent of influence, even if he doesn’t quite see himself that way. He is currently working on a new peace plan for the Middle East which starts out with permanently demilitarizing the Palestinians. It will no doubt continue in the tradition of former plans which aggrandized Jewish power while stiffing the Arabs. And not to worry about the team that will be allegedly representing American interests. It is already being reported that they consist of “good, observant Jews” and will not be a problem, even though Israeli-American mega-fundraiser Haim Saban apparently described them on Sunday as “With all due respect, it’s a bunch of Orthodox Jews who have no idea about anything”.

What exactly did Kushner seek from Flynn? He asked the soon-to-be National Security Adviser to get the Russians to undermine and subvert what was being done by the still-in-power American government in Washington headed by President Barack Obama. In legal terms this does not quite equate to the Constitution’s definition of treason since Israel is not technically an enemy, but it most certainly would be covered by the Logan Act of 1799, which bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States and also could be construed as a “conspiracy against the United States” that the Mueller investigation has exploited against former Trump associate Paul Manafort. As Kushner is Jewish and certainly could be accused of dual loyalty in extremis, this part of the story obviously makes many in the US Establishment and media uncomfortable, so it is being ignored and expunged from the record as quickly as possible. And don’t expect Special Counsel Mueller to do anything about the Israel connection. As an experienced operator in the Washington swamp, he knows full well that the Congressmen currently calling for blood in an investigation involving Russia will turn 180 degrees against him if he tries to go after Netanyahu.

And just to demonstrate exactly how the story is shaped to protect Israel, here is a piece from the generally reliable The Hill written by Morgan Chalfant on five takeaways from Flynn’s guilty plea. Israel is not even identified and, if one reads the two mentions of the UN vote connected to the first call, it appears to be deliberately omitted. The first citation reads “He also lied when he said he did not ask Kislyak to delay or defeat a vote on a pending UN Security Council resolution …” and the second is “Prosecutors also say that a senior member of the transition team on December 22 directed Flynn to contact officials from Russia and other governments about their stance on the UN resolution ‘and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution’ “. Does omitting Israel and emphasizing the Russian aspect of the story throughout the rest of the piece change what it says and how it is perceived? You betcha.

For me, there was also a second takeaway from the Flynn story apart from the collusion with Israel. It involves the use of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to set-up Flynn shortly after he had been installed as National Security Adviser. Insofar as I can determine, the FBI entrapment of Flynn has only been examined in a serious way in the media by Robert Parry at Consortium News.

Michael Flynn was actually interviewed by the FBI regarding his two phone conversations on January 24th shortly after he assumed office as National Security Adviser. During his interview, he was not made aware that the Bureau already had recordings and transcripts of his phone conversations, so, in a manner of speaking, he was being set-up to fail. Mis-remembering, forgetting, or attempting to avoid implication of others in the administration would inevitably all be plausibly construed as lying since the FBI knew exactly what was said.

To be sure, many would agree that the sleazy Flynn deserves everything he gets, but the logic used to set-up the possible Flynn entrapment by the FBI, that is, that there was unauthorized contact with a foreign official, is in itself curious as Flynn was a private citizen at the time and such contact is not in itself illegal. And it also opens the door to the Bureau’s investigating other individuals who have committed no crime but who find that they cannot recall details of phone calls they were parties to that were being recorded by the government six months or a year before. That can easily be construed as “lying” or “perjury” with consequences that include possible prison time.

So there are two observations one might make about the Flynn saga as it currently stands. First, Israel, not Russia, was colluding with the Trump Administration prior to inauguration day to do something highly unethical and quite probably illegal, which should surprise no one. And second, record all your phone conversations with foreign government officials. The NSA and FBI will have a copy in any event, but you might want to retain your own records to make sure their transcript is accurate.

_____

Philip M Giraldi is a former CIA Operations officer who is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based US foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address us PO Box 2157, Purcellville, Virginia 20132, and email address is inform@cnionline.org.

http://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/russiagate-becomes-israelgate/

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Still Waiting

A Harvey Weinstein Moment for America’s Wars?

by Andrew J Bacevich

TomDispatch (December 10 2017)

What makes a Harvey Weinstein moment? The now-disgraced Hollywood mogul is hardly the first powerful man to stand accused of having abused women. The Harveys who preceded Harvey himself are legion, their prominence matching or exceeding his own and the misdeeds with which they were charged at least as reprehensible.

In the relatively recent past, a roster of prominent offenders would include Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and, of course, Donald Trump. Throw in various jocks, maestros, senior military officers, members of the professoriate and you end up with quite a list. Yet in virtually all such cases, the alleged transgressions were treated as instances of individual misconduct, egregious perhaps but possessing at best transitory political resonance.

All that, though, was pre-Harvey. As far as male sexual hijinks are concerned, we might compare Weinstein’s epic fall from grace to the stock market crash of 1929: one week it’s the anything-goes Roaring Twenties, the next we’re smack dab in a Great Depression.

How profound is the change? Up here in Massachusetts where I live, we’ve spent the past year marking John F Kennedy’s 100th birthday. If Kennedy were still around to join in the festivities, it would be as a Class A sex offender. Rarely in American history has the cultural landscape shifted so quickly or so radically.

In our post-Harvey world, men charged with sexual misconduct are guilty until proven innocent, all crimes are capital offenses, and there exists no statute of limitations. Once a largely empty corporate slogan, “zero tolerance” has become a battle cry.

All of this serves as a reminder that, on some matters at least, the American people retain an admirable capacity for outrage. We can distinguish between the tolerable and the intolerable. And we can demand accountability of powerful individuals and institutions.

Everything They Need to Win (Again!)

What’s puzzling is why that capacity for outrage and demand for accountability doesn’t extend to our now well-established penchant for waging war across much of the planet.

In no way would I wish to minimize the pain, suffering, and humiliation of the women preyed upon by the various reprobates now getting their belated comeuppance. But to judge from published accounts, the women (and in some cases, men) abused by Weinstein, Louis C K, Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, my West Point classmate Judge Roy Moore, and their compadres at least managed to survive their encounters. None of the perpetrators are charged with having committed murder. No one died.

Compare their culpability to that of the high-ranking officials who have presided over or promoted this country’s various military misadventures of the present century. Those wars have, of course, resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and will ultimately cost American taxpayers many trillions of dollars. Nor have those costly military efforts eliminated “terrorism”, as President George W Bush promised back when today’s GIs were still in diapers.

Bush told us that, through war, the United States would spread freedom and democracy. Instead, our wars have sown disorder and instability, creating failing or failed states across the Greater Middle East and Africa. In their wake have sprung up ever more, not fewer, jihadist groups, while acts of terror are soaring globally. These are indisputable facts.

It discomfits me to reiterate this mournful litany of truths. I feel a bit like the doctor telling the lifelong smoker with stage-four lung cancer that an addiction to cigarettes is adversely affecting his health. His mute response: I know and I don’t care. Nothing the doc says is going to budge the smoker from his habit. You go through the motions but wonder why.

In a similar fashion, war has become a habit to which the United States is addicted. Except for the terminally distracted, most of us know that. We also know – we cannot not know – that, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, US forces have been unable to accomplish their assigned mission, despite more than sixteen years of fighting in the former and more than a decade in the latter.

It’s not exactly a good news story, to put it mildly. So forgive me for saying it (yet again), but most of us simply don’t care, which means that we continue to allow a free hand to those who preside over those wars while treating with respect the views of pundits and media personalities who persist in promoting them. What’s past doesn’t count; we prefer to sustain the pretense that tomorrow is pregnant with possibilities. Victory lies just around the corner.

By way of example, consider a recent article in US News and World Report. The headline: “Victory or Failure in Afghanistan: 2018 Will Be the Deciding Year”. The title suggests a balance absent from the text that follows, which reads like a Pentagon press release. Here in its entirety is the nut graf (my own emphasis added):
 

Armed with a new strategy and renewed support from old allies, the Trump administration now believes it has everything it needs to win the war in Afghanistan. Top military advisers all the way up to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis say they can accomplish what two previous administrations and multiple troop surges could not: the defeat of the Taliban by Western-backed local forces, a negotiated peace and the establishment of a popularly supported government in Kabul capable of keeping the country from once again becoming a haven to any terrorist group.

 

Now if you buy this, you’ll believe that Harvey Weinstein has learned his lesson and can be trusted to interview young actresses while wearing his bathrobe.

For starters, there is no “new strategy”. Trump’s generals, apparently with a nod from their putative boss, are merely modifying the old “strategy”, which was itself an outgrowth of previous strategies tried, found wanting, and eventually discarded before being rebranded and eventually recycled.

Short of using nuclear weapons, US forces fighting in Afghanistan over the past decade and a half have experimented with just about every approach imaginable: invasion, regime change, occupation, nation-building, pacification, decapitation, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency, not to mention various surges, differing in scope and duration. We have had a big troop presence and a smaller one, more bombing and less, restrictive rules of engagement and permissive ones. In the military equivalent of throwing in the kitchen sink, a US Special Operations Command four-engine prop plane recently deposited the largest non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. Although that MOAB made a big boom, no offer of enemy surrender materialized.

In truth, US commanders have quietly shelved any expectations of achieving an actual victory – traditionally defined as “imposing your will on the enemy” – in favor of a more modest conception of success. In year XVII of America’s Afghanistan War, the hope is that training, equipping, advising, and motivating Afghans to assume responsibility for defending their country may someday allow American forces and their coalition partners to depart. By 2015, that project, building up the Afghan security forces, had already absorbed at least $65 billion in US taxpayer dollars. And under the circumstances, consider that a mere down payment.

According to General John Nicholson, our seventeenth commander in Kabul since 2001, the efforts devised and implemented by his many predecessors have resulted in a “stalemate” – a generous interpretation given that the Taliban presently controls more territory than it has held since the US invasion. Officers no less capable than Nicholson himself, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal among them, didn’t get it done. Nicholson’s argument: trust me.

In essence, the “new strategy” devised by Trump’s generals, Secretary of Defense Mattis and Nicholson among them, amounts to this: persist a tad longer with a tad more. A modest uptick in the number of US and allied troops on the ground will provide more trainers, advisers, and motivators to work with and accompany their Afghan counterparts in the field. The Mattis/Nicholson plan also envisions an increasing number of air strikes, signaled by the recent use of B-52s to attack illicit Taliban “drug labs”, a scenario that Stanley Kubrick himself would have been hard-pressed to imagine.

Notwithstanding the novelty of using strategic bombers to destroy mud huts, there’s not a lot new here. Dating back to 2001, coalition forces have already dropped tens of thousands of bombs in Afghanistan. Almost as soon as the Taliban were ousted from Kabul, coalition efforts to create effective Afghan security forces commenced. So, too, did attempts to reduce the production of the opium that has funded the Taliban insurgency, alas with essentially no effect whatsoever. What Trump’s generals want a gullible public (and astonishingly gullible and inattentive members of Congress) to believe is that this time they’ve somehow devised a formula for getting it right.

Turning the Corner

With his trademark capacity to intuit success, President Trump already sees clear evidence of progress. “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around”, he remarked in his Thanksgiving message to the troops. “We’re fighting to win. And you people [have] turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody has seen.” The president, we may note, has yet to visit Afghanistan.

I’m guessing that the commander-in-chief is oblivious to the fact that, in US military circles, the term winning has acquired notable elasticity. Trump may think that it implies vanquishing the enemy – white flags and surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri. General Nicholson knows better. “Winning”, the field commander says, “means delivering a negotiated settlement that reduces the level of violence and protecting the homeland”. (Take that definition at face value and we can belatedly move Vietnam into the win column!)

Should we be surprised that Trump’s generals, unconsciously imitating General William Westmoreland a half-century ago, claim once again to detect light at the end of the tunnel? Not at all. Mattis and Nicholson (along with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H R McMaster) are following the Harvey Weinstein playbook: keep doing it until they make you stop. Indeed, with what can only be described as chutzpah, Nicholson himself recently announced that we have “turned the corner” in Afghanistan. In doing so, of course, he is counting on Americans not to recall the various war managers, military and civilian alike, who have made identical claims going back years now, among them Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2012.

From on high, assurances of progress; in the field, results that, year after year, come nowhere near what’s promised; on the home front, an astonishingly credulous public. The war in Afghanistan has long since settled into a melancholy and seemingly permanent rhythm.

The fact is that the individuals entrusted by President Trump to direct US policy believe with iron certainty that difficult political problems will yield to armed might properly employed. That proposition is one to which generals like Mattis and Nicholson have devoted a considerable part of their lives, not just in Afghanistan but across much of the Islamic world. They are no more likely to question the validity of that proposition than the Pope is to entertain second thoughts about the divinity of Jesus Christ.

In Afghanistan, their entire worldview – not to mention the status and clout of the officer corps they represent – is at stake. No matter how long the war there lasts, no matter how many “generations” it takes, no matter how much blood is shed to no purpose, and no matter how much money is wasted, they will never admit to failure – nor will any of the militarists-in-mufti cheering them on from the sidelines in Washington, Donald Trump not the least among them.

Meanwhile, the great majority of the American people, their attention directed elsewhere – it’s the season for holiday shopping, after all – remain studiously indifferent to the charade being played out before their eyes.

It took a succession of high-profile scandals before Americans truly woke up to the plague of sexual harassment and assault. How long will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don’t work? Here’s hoping it’s before our president, in a moment of ill temper, unleashes “fire and fury” on the world.

_____

Andrew J Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author, most recently, of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (2017).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017) as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (2017), John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands (2016), Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead (2016), and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (2014).

Copyright 2017 Andrew J. Bacevich

(c) 2017 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176361/

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How the US Dictatorship Works

by Eric Zuesse

Strategic Culture Foundation (December 03 2017)

A recent article in The Washington Post described how the current US tax-“reform” bill is being shaped; and it describes, basically (at least as far as tax-law changes are concerned), the operation of a US dictatorship by the super-rich.

First of all, however: there is no longer any real question as regards whether the US in recent decades has been a dictatorship or,¬†instead, a democracy. According to the only scientific analysis of the relevant data {1}, that has been done in order to determine whether the US is a dictatorship or a democracy, the US is definitely a dictatorship that’s perpetrated by the extremely richest, against the public-at-large; in other words: the US Government functions as an aristocracy, otherwise referred-to as an oligarchy, or a plutocracy, or a kleptocracy; but, in any case, and by whatever name, it’s ruled by a tiny number of the extremely wealthiest and their agents, on behalf of those few super-rich, against the concerns and interests and needs of the public (everyone else). So: instead of being rule by the public (the “demos” is the Greek term for it), it’s rule on behalf of a tiny dictatorial class, of extreme wealth – by whatever name we might happen to label this ruling class.

That study {1}, by professors Gilens and Page, explained that it examined “1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change”, and it compared those public-policy preferences, by the public, versus the public-policy preferences regarding those same issues, by the super-wealthiest; and, it found that only the public-policy preferences by the super-wealthiest and their paid agents, made any discernible difference, at all, in the likelihood that a given public policy ultimately became enacted into law, in the United States. Whereas the public-policy preferences of the wealthiest do, at far higher than mere random chances, become enacted into laws, the public-policy preferences of the public are (except in political rhetoric and promises – frauds perpetrated to deceive the public) ignored, in the United States.

Here is an excellent six-minute video {2} describing the methodology and findings in that landmark study, and here is a commentary by former US President Jimmy Carter, in which he says that he knows it’s true. He said this not on the basis of examining thousands of cases and doing the statistical analysis of the data, like Gilens and Page had done, but just on the basis of his observations of how the US federal government has been functioning in recent decades. And, of course, the scientific study is vastly more reliable than is any individual’s mere opinion on the matter.

Furthermore, there exists evidence that even in some local or state governments in the United States, considerable corruption exists, and therefore an extreme slant prevails in favor of the rich. During June 2016, I headlined this, “Here Is How Corrupt America Is”, and opined:

The best reporting on the depth of America’s dictatorship is probably that being done by Atlanta Georgia’s NBC-affiliated, Gannett-owned, TV Channel “11 Alive”, WXIA television, its “The Investigators” series of local investigative news reports, which show, up close and at a cellularly detailed level, the way things actually work in today’s America. Although it’s only local, it displays what meets the legal standards of the US federal government in actually any state in the union; so, it exposes the character of the US government, such that what’s shown to be true here, meets America’s standard for “democracy”, or else the federal government isn’t enforcing federal laws against it (which is the same thing as its meeting the federal government’s standards).

The links to three of these local TV news reports will be provided, along with a summary of each of the videos; and then the broader context will be provided, which ties the local picture in with the national, and then the resulting international, picture. So: this will be like a zoom-lens view, starting with three selected close-ups, and then broadening the view to wide-angle, showing the context in terms of which what’s happening in that fine detail (those close-up views) makes sense. {3}

What was exemplified in this reporting by that excellent investigative team could be called “corporate organized-gangsterism”, and this gangsterism was being led by an operation, “ALEC”, that was founded by politicians whose careers are funded by the Koch brothers and some other US billionaires. {4}

Furthermore, as was mentioned briefly at the opening here, a recent issue of The Washington Post’s “PowerPost” section was titled “The Finance 202: Tax overhaul’s big test comes now”, and it described in detail what was shaping the Trump Administration’s tax-overhaul bill. This article reported that the lobbyists were shaping it 100%. It’s a superb nitty-gritty, down among the weeds, description, of the monetary deals, the horse-trading, that were being made, not only for corporations, but for the wealthiest non-business lobbies, including “nonprofit” ones, but almost all of these lobbies, too, depend overwhelmingly upon billionaires for their funding. What’s being carved-up and served, is being carved-up from governments, and being served to the super-rich. (After all: conservatives say “Government bad, business good”, and Republicans are the conservative Party; so, it’s taking from government, and giving to business.)

So: is it any wonder why Gilens and Page found what they did? They found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence”. (By “mass-based groups” they mean what the left often calls “movements” or “grass-roots” organizations. After all, what happened from “Occupy Wall Street”? Nothing. It was a big waste of time and effort. Authentic movements get marginalized because the billionaires’ “news” media despise them. Fake ones, such as the Kochs’ “The Tea Party ‘movement’ “, get weaponized, because the billionaires’ “news” media treat them extensively, and often grant them respect. Top-down’s the way, in any dictatorship. That includes in America.)

Here is another excellent video – this one ten minutes long – summarizing the Gilens and Page study {5}.

The only major difference between Republican politicians and Democratic ones, then, is that, whereas Republican ones don’t even need to pretend that they oppose limitless greed (since limitless greed that’s carried out by frauds instead of by outright physical violence – which latter type of coercion is the type that’s employed more by lower-class crooks, anyway, and those are the type of crooks who fill our prisons, not the type who fill our boardrooms – is, essentially, supported by Republicans’ ideology, as “being entrepreneurial” and “competitive spirit”), Democratic politicians do need to make that pretense (since their voters are liberals, and liberals don’t share the conservatives’ “Greed is good” libertarian faith). But the outcomes, even when Democrats are in power, are vastly more helpful to the billionaires, than to the public.

Does this mean that Democratic (or liberal) politicians are necessarily more hypocritical than Republican ones are? No. Whereas Democrats pretend to be opposed to the system’s favoring the super-rich, Republicans pretend to be opposed to “sins” and other religious-based shibboleths. Both Parties can win and retain power only by deceiving (defrauding) the public, and serving the billionaires, though in different ways – some conservative, and some liberal. Virtually everything else than that service to billionaires (and to centi-millionaires) is just frauds by politicians, because, at least after around 1970, only the richest one percent or (usually far) less are actually being served by the US federal government. It’s not the billionaires that are defrauded by politicians; it is clearly the public that is being defrauded by them.

The public is served only to the extent that the public’s interests are the same as the billionaires’ interests. And the Gilens and Page study found that the public’s policy-preferences are simply ignored – not ignored in the political rhetoric, but ignored in the political outcomes.

The US Government, thus, is of a few people (the policymakers), by the billionaires, and for the billionaires. And that’s just an established fact.

Links:

{1} https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

{2} https://represent.us/action/theproblem-3/

{3} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/06/how-corrupt-america-is.html

{4} https://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/07/10887/cmd-special-report-alecs-funding-and-spending

{5} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvJ1ZuJDNbQ

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/12/03/how-us-dictatorship-works.html

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The $10 Trillion Investment Plan …

… to Integrate the Eurasian Supercontinent

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”), by lending out money using an alternative currency to the dollar, opens up huge spaces for investment and the strategic transformation of the region

by Federico Pieraccini

Strategic Culture Foundation (December 08 2017)

The overland integration of the BRI, led by China and Russia, aims to create different transit routes for goods as well as different areas of economic development along the new Chinese Silk Road. A great opportunity is thereby opened up for Chinese banks and for private investors interested in creating infrastructure or developing potential industrial poles in the countries involved in this grand Chinese initiative.

Hong Qi, president of China Minsheng Bank, recently said during an economic forum held in Beijing regarding investments in the BRI that there is potentially about $10 trillion worth of investments in infrastructure in the countries that make up the BRI, such as in railways, urban development, logistics, and cross-border e-commerce.

At this point, more than $10 billion has already been committed in investments, thanks to companies already present in over thirty countries and regions along the BRI, with the ongoing intention of financing these loans through China’s public and private sectors. According to data from the China Banking Regulatory Commission, a total of nine Chinese banks are involved in the financing of projects, with 62 branches having been opened in 26 countries. A further $10 billion could come from European countries as a result of investments stemming from the China-CEEC forum.

Despite a delay in investment, and especially in the development of such projects, analysts believe that the BRI is the ideal ground for making regional cooperation agreements based on trust and win-win prospects for future integration of the region. Thus, not only are public and private banks involved in investments but the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (“AIIB”) and the Silk Road Fund are also part of the financial package that should lay the foundation for the accelerated development of the Chinese BRI. Confirming a new approach to the development of the BRI, Chinese investors during the first ten months of 2017 proposed projects totaling $11 billion in the 53 countries involved.

The effort is mainly focused on the development of railway networks, hospitals, and power plants. Such basic infrastructure will lay the groundwork for further development in countries involved in the BRI that otherwise have little capacity to invest in such projects themselves. According to Zhang Zansheng, an accredited researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, the first marker is set for 2020, the year that “further tangible progress” should be made in the development of the BRI, mainly referring to railway links between different Asian regions and the Mediterranean. Reflecting how things are already changing, dozens of trains leave monthly from European countries to reach China, the latest being one from Italy, leaving from the province of Pavia, a few kilometers from Milan.

Robin Xing, Chief China Economist for Morgan Stanley, echoed many analysts in predicting that 2018 and 2019 will be the two key years where tangible implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative will start to become apparent. These projects and investments will increase global trade with the countries involved in the BRI, which could see a ten percent increase in their exports to China over the next ten years, the practical results of the investments in ports, railways, and industrial centers.

The People’s Republic of China continues to treat investments and risks with a pragmatic and realistic attitude. Accordingly, the main investors in the BRI comprise state-controlled industries and banks, which allows for sufficient control by the central authority in the event of major problems. With investments amounting to at least $60 billion per year, involving more than 1,676 projects, and representing about 0.5% of Chinese nominal GDP, for the moment Beijing wants to have full control over the whole project, a strategic interest that is perfectly understandable.

The BRI is generating many innovations, including a possible new sea route through the Arctic. Although the project is yet to be fully developed, China is beginning to invest in cooperation projects with Russia to exploit this new route. The Russian Federation is the only country to have nuclear-powered icebreakers. Beijing intends to follow its Russian partner in this project in order to pave the way for its freight containers. Cost savings in terms of transport from China to Europe would be in the region of thirty to forty percent. The Northeast Passage can only be crossed during about four months of the year, due to thick ice and unfavorable weather conditions that otherwise exist. Experts forecast that this route will be increasingly free of ice in coming years, and therefore will become more passable. Given the enormous shipping times to be saved, China and Russia have already started cooperating in order to be ready to develop and exploit this new and strategic route.

Considering the great importance of shipping routes, the ability to reach the Mediterranean is of fundamental importance. As things stand now, China is hampered by several strategic vulnerabilities, such as the Strait of Malacca or the passage through the Suez Canal, two choke points that are susceptible to a naval blockade by the US in the unlikely event of war between these major powers. This is not to mention the Panama Canal, which guarantees transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and Gibraltar, which controls access to the Mediterranean Sea. Certainly, with an Arctic route, passage would be much faster, as well as be free from the possibility of blockade.

At the moment, the land route to Europe represents a viable solution, but one that also brings with it continuous challenges and several possibilities. One involves transporting goods from the north through the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. The second involves going through the south, with a passage through Turkey to arrive either at the Greek port of Piraeus or in Venice. Some sort of competition is bound to occur in the future within the European Union, with countries jostling to become the main transit hub between Europe and China. The link between China and the European Union represents a critical issue for the BRI, with a traffic of goods in the order of tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars. At the moment, all the parties involved are aware of a much wider problem for the BRI. Freight trains from Europe to China are often empty, without major exports to the People’s Republic of China, a problem that makes overland transport routes unprofitable. In this regard, the European Union must accelerate its economic recovery by aiming to exploit new trade routes that offer benefits for all countries involved. As usual, obstacles lie ahead, especially in the geopolitical arena, with the BRI representing a strategic challenge to American hegemony in Asia and Europe.

With this in mind, there is a need to move away from the dollar when it comes to loans and investments made to finance BRI infrastructure projects. This does not prevent the development of new projects for the time being. But China and other countries involved should pay more attention to this vulnerability that hangs over the whole project. Beijing should, therefore, accelerate use of an alternative currency in this grand project.

The economic power of the United States depends on the continued need for the rest of the world to have dollars available. This Chinese project aims to integrate countries such that Washington is denied hegemony over Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. For such reasons, it is fundamental that Beijing arms itself with every weapon available in its arsenal to defend itself from the sabotage that Washington will inevitably visit on the project. Avoiding a currency that the United States controls would be a good starting point.

_____

Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/12/08/10-trillion-investment-plan-integrate-eurasian-supercontinent.html

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China, Saudi Arabia, and the US

Shake Up and Shake Down

by James Petras

The Unz Review (December 04 2017)

Introduction

Major changes are roiling the states, societies, and ruling classes of the biggest industrial economies, oil regimes, and military complexes.

China is re-allocating its economic wealth toward building the most extensive modern infrastructure system in history, linking four continents.

Saudi Arabia is transferring a trillion dollars of pillage from princes to princes, from old business parasites to up-to-date versions, from austere desert mirages to fantasies of new mega-cities.

The United States is emptying the swamp of the Capital’s corruption and immediately replenishing it with the scandal of the day.

One Cabinet Secretary is fired; another Secretary is hired; one enemy is embraced; an ally denounced; the stock market flourishes and trade agreements are abandoned. One tax is sliced and pleases the powerful; another is spliced and chokes the consumers.

Turmoil, some would say; chaos, others would claim. And the stouthearted argue that’s the way the world turns round.

But for all the world’s current “shaking”, there is substance and direction: There are models for the shaking-up and paradigms for the shaking down.

“Shaking up” occurs where visions of wealth and prosperity accompany science and discovery.

“Shaking down” is where the science of palace coups and the art of bloody intrigues fleece the poor while enriching and amusing the powerful.

The Art and Artist of the Shake Down

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (“MBS”), pursues a new policy of scientific, systematic, large-scale, and long-term shakedown. Science is evident in these procedures, in their rigorous identification of targets, and their efficient methodology of securing subjects and achieving success.

MBS and his associates launched their policy of shakedown in several well-planned stages.

First, they cloaked the entire shakedown operation as part of the vast transformation of the Kingdom, accompanied by a string of Western buzzwords: modernization of a traditional society; cleansing the suites of corruption; diversifying the oil-dependent economy; privatizing ARAMCO; and replacing camels and tents with a state-of-the-art megacity in the desert.

MBS thus moved to seize state power as the final act in an operation starting with a wave of shakedowns.

The Princes-in-waiting experienced the initial shakedown.

In orderly fashion, MBS wielded his royal sword on behalf of righteousness (according to his adoring fans in the Western press, like Thomas Friedman): Scores of corrupt princes and hundreds of the business and military elite were arrested (or abducted for ransom … and safekeeping).

The “shakedown” was underway, but the captives were held in circumstances worthy of their status. The abduction, imprisonment, and plea-bargaining for ransom and release took place in the five-star Riyadh Ritz-Hilton.

The MBS “meritocratic modernizers” held the highest degrees in finance and accounting and were adept at calculating appropriate ransoms from each and every captive. The “meritocratic modernizers” demanded hundreds of millions from the billionaires while the generals settled for an early retirement, stripped of pensions and commands. Upon payment and release, the newly fleeced Saudi Princelings fled to the brothels of Beirut to receive un-brotherly comfort. They were freed on one condition: They would return some of the Kingdom’s pillage to fund a “New Class” in a “New Arabia” under the Crown Prince MBS.

However, Western investors, who quietly kept their snouts in the “traditional trough” of Saudi wealth, were not sure where they stood with MBS and his meritocratic modernizers. They needed to know, for the sake of their stockholders: Were they victims or beneficiaries of the big shakedown? Were they condemned to suffer among the corrupt billionaires or granted entry into the new realm of the virtuous Prince?

MBS may have carried out the largest shakedown in recent times, in the name of justice, but there are still no signs of a diversified, modern and prosperous society arising on the Arabian Peninsula. In some places, there rose a more diverse variety of shakedown artists and plotters: Many, who applaud the Crown Prince, await their share of the loot. In other parts of the peninsula, MBS continues to deliver famine, cholera, and desperation and rain down bombs on the people of Yemen. If Israel could turn the remnant of Palestine into an open-air prison for periodic slaughter, MBS could find his own “Palestinians” in Yemen for target practice.

China: The Shake Up

China is in the throes of one, two, many upheavals: Over one million high and low ranking officials and millionaires, who levied their own “private tax” on the public treasury, will celebrate another Chinese New Year – in jail.

Meanwhile, over 25 billion dollars has been spent on innovative high tech projects, reshaping the economy, reducing pollution, and expanding the welfare state.

Over one trillion dollars is being spent on huge global infrastructure projects linking China to four continents in an integrated network of trade – The One Road-One Belt Network.

China is the polar-opposite of Saudi Arabia: In place of state-sponsored ransom and blackmail (the “shakedown”), China is experiencing a monumental “shake-up” – spending money in multiple directions. There are overseas projects to promote trade relations; upward projects linking business to high technology and greater profits; downward projects to train and expand the skilled labor force, reduce pollution, increase social welfare, save lives, and increase productivity.

Unlike the US, China has nourished its manufacturing sector, and not starved it of investment. The average factory in the US is twice as old as those in China. To even dream of catching up with Chinese production, the US would have to invest over $115 billion a year in manufacturing for the next three decades.

Limited access to investment capital will condemn the tens of thousands of small- and medium-size manufacturing enterprises in the US to low productivity and reduced exports.

In contrast, the Chinese government directs investment capital widely to manufacturers of all sizes and shapes. Moreover, local Chinese manufacturers connect readily to the supply chain with big exporters. China provides explicit incentives to exporters to work with local suppliers to ensure that profits are re-invested in the home market.

In the US, the multinational suppliers are located out of the country and their earnings are hoarded overseas. Whenever profits return to the US, these are directed into buybacks of shares and dividends for the stockholders – not into new production.

Beijing manages debt, raising and limiting it to promote dynamic development with a level of efficiency unmatched in the US.

China keeps a close eye on excessive debt, speculation, and investment, in contrast to the unrestrained chaos of the so-called “free market” of the US and its parasitical allies, the Saudi coupon-clipping shakedown artists.

The US: The Political Economy of Scandalous Conspiracies and “Flight Capitalism”

The chaotic free-for-all in the US political economy is manipulated by scandalmongers, conspirators, and flight capitalists. Instead of preparing an economic plan to “make America great again”, they have embraced the political blackmailers and intriguers of Saudi Arabia in a sui generis global political alliance. Both countries feature purges, resignations, and pugnacious politicos who have never been weaned from the destructive bosom of war.

As a point of history, the United States didn’t start out as a bloated, speculative state of crony capitalists and parasitical allies: The US was once a powerful industrial country, harnessing finance and overseas investments to securing raw materials for domestic industries and directing profits back into industry for higher productivity.

Fake, or semi-fake, political rivalries and electoral competition counted little as incumbents retained their positions most of the time, and bi-partisan agreements ensured stability through sharing the spoils of office.

Things have changed. Overseas neo-colonies started to offer more than just raw materials: They introduced low-tax manufacturing sites promising free access to cheap, healthy, and educated workers. US manufacturers abandoned Old Glory, invested overseas, hoarded profits in tax havens, and happily evaded paying taxes to fund a new economy for displaced US workers. Simultaneously, finance reversed its relation to industry: Industrial capital was now harnessed to finance, speculation, real estate, insurance sectors, and electronic gadgets/play-by-yourself “i-phones” promoting isolated “selfies” and idle chatter.

Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood replaced Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. Stockbrokers proliferated, while master tool-and-die makers disappeared and workers’ children overdosed on “Oxy”.

In the transition, politicians, who had no connection to domestic industry, found a powerful niche promoting overseas wars for allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, and disseminating domestic spats, intrigues, and conspiracies to the voters. Vietnam and Watergate, Afghanistan and Volker, Iran-Contra and Reaganomics, Yugoslavia and Iraq, daily drone strikes and bombings, and Bill Clinton’s White House sex scandals giving salacious birth to Special Prosecutors …

In this historic transformation, American political culture put on a new face: perpetual wars, Wall Street swindles, and Washington scandals. It culminated in the farcical Hillary Clinton – Donald Trump presidential election campaign: the war goddess-cuckquean of chaos versus the crotch-grabbing real-estate conman.

The public heard Secretary of State Clinton’s maniacal laugh upon her viewing the “snuff-film” torture and slaughter of the wounded Libya’s President Gadhafi: She crowed: “We came, we saw … and he died” with a sword up his backside. This defined the Clinton doctrine in foreign affairs, while slaughter of the welfare state and the bloated prison industry would define her domestic agenda.

Trump’s presidential election campaign went about the country pleasuring the business and finance elite (promises of tax cuts, deregulations, re-contamination, and jacking up the earth’s temperature with a handful of jobs), and successfully pushed aside the outrage over his crude rump grabbing boasts.

Wars, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood all gathered to set the parameters of the United States’ political economy: The chase was on!

The Clinton sleuths uncovered an army of Russian conspirators running Trump’s electoral campaign, writing his speeches, typing his ‘Tweets’, designing his tactics, and successfully directing the votes of millions of duped “deplorables” – the rural and rust-belt poor.

The entire media world auto-pleasured their friends and allies with the Trump Administration’s political striptease, shedding appointees, dumping nominees, and misdirecting policies with a string of revelations. According to dubious anecdotes, the Special Prosecutor uncovered Russian conspiracies to enlist Salvation Army bell ringers and Washington lobbyists. The “deplorables” meanwhile tuned out in disgust.

Trump retaliated with midnight Tweets and appointed a clutch of retired Generals, who had been battle-seasoned in Obama’s seven losing wars and even found a loudmouth South Carolina belle to evoke visions of mushroom clouds in the United Nations. Naturally, there was the coterie of Zionist advisers from the “think tanks” and from his own family working double time to set US-Middle East policy on the road to new wars.

Trump’s Generals and Zionists on the one hand and the Democrats, liberals, anti-fascists, and leftists formed the “resistance” and fought fiercely for freedom: Freedom to direct the state to censor alternative news or informed discussion debunking the canard about Russian meddling, exposing Ukraine’s land grabs, proving Iran’s compliance to the nuclear deal and Tel Aviv’s baseless warnings about Tehran. Bolstered by the President’s Chief Advisor Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, the Saudi Crown Prince was praised for kidnapping the Lebanese Prime Minister and forcing his resignation. Every day there was a new scandal, conspiracy upon conspiracy and, of course, fake news blaring out from all sides of corporate media and NPR.

The threat of war spreads across the Middle East: How many families would the unholy trinity of Saudi Arabia-US-Israel slaughter, starve or incarcerate in Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Drowned out by domestic scandals and conspiracies – this carnage did not happen – in the news. While scores of thousands in Yemen suffered from cholera amidst a brutal Saudi blockade, The Washington PostThe New York Times, CBS-NBC-ABC published the same front-page photo of Trump’s clumsy handshake at the APEC Conference. At least, the trillion-dollar corporate-oligarch tax cut merited a jolly Tweet from the Donald.

The Big Shakedown is all about the swindles and the sex designed to keep Wall Street safe, the Pentagon at war, and the public distracted.

Conclusion

Three countries are shaking the world in different directions:

In Saudi Arabia, MBS is engaged in a region-shattering shakedown, picking the pockets of Princes for a trillion dollars of unearned and pilfered oil rents to finance more cholera, starvation, and mass murder in Yemen and beyond.

Through China, there is a Eurasian “shakeup” as Beijing expands modern Silk-Roads everywhere and with everyone to connect markets, develop supply chains, and increase prosperity at home and among its trade partners.

And the US just shakes … and trembles as its leaders rush to further enrich the ultra-rich, conspire to uncover conspiracies upon plot, scandalize the scandalmongers, and tell us that freedom really means the freedom to expose and gnaw over the sordid acts of petty perverts while hiding much greater truths and reality. Official truth has become a stinking mound of offal.

One can only hope for a great “shaking off”.

http://www.unz.com/jpetras/china-saudi-arabia-and-the-us/

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Google’s Artificial Intelligence …

Built Its Own AI that Outperforms Any Made by Humans

by Jake Anderson

http://theantimedia.org (December 05 2017)

With the exponential growth of machine learning, automation, and artificial intelligence, a certain anxiety over future job losses and human obsolescence has crept into popular culture. What’s to stop artificial intelligence from replacing humans across the board? Well, one might respond, they’ll still need humans to create them. Right?

According to researchers at Google Brain, their newest artificial intelligence (“AI”) creation, AutoML, is not only capable of creating its own AIs, it is better at it than humans. The project, an early example of recursively self-improving AI, involved the use of reinforcement learning to automate the development of machine learning templates.

AutoML (“ML” is short for machine learning) acted as a controller neural network that spawned a child AI called NASNet. AutoML played the role of supervisor and teacher for its child AI, overseeing its ability to perform a specific task over and over again. In this case, NASNet was charged with real-time object detection, which it completed with record efficiency.

According to CEO Sundar Pichai, AutoML solves one of the most intractable problems for deep learning software engineers, which is selecting the best architecture for a neural network.

Google’s researchers say the development of computer vision algorithms will not only help to expand the field – which, by some estimates, has only 10,000 people worldwide with the ability to write such complex mathematical algorithms – but that it could also lead to huge improvements in self-driving cars and even enhanced assistance for visually impaired humans.

While recursively self-improving AI will lead to the exponential growth of AI, experts say that democratizing the field of AI by allowing non-experts to develop AI applications will lead to human growth as well.

In a blog post, Google Brain researchers wrote:
 

We hope that the larger machine learning community will be able to build on these models to address multitudes of computer vision problems we have not yet imagined.

 

In a time when anxiety over automated weapons and surveillance – which could both be dramatically strengthened by next-generation algorithmic AI – has reached fever pitch, perhaps more humans becoming engaged with AI is a good thing. With a “seed AI” such as AutoML taking care of the heavy-lifting, smart machines making new smart machines could help humans grow smarter in the process. It seems we’ve figured out the solution to the shortage of AI experts – create them.

http://theantimedia.org/google-artificial-intelligence-built-ai/

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The New Great Game …

… Moves from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (December 08 2017)

In the context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”), integrates all of China’s instruments of national power – political, economic, diplomatic, financial, intellectual, and cultural – to shape the 21st century geopolitical/geoeconomic order. BRI is the organizing concept of China’s foreign policy for the foreseeable future; the heart of what was conceptualized, even before President Xi Jinping, as China’s “peaceful rise”.

The Trump administration’s reaction to the breadth and scope of BRI has been somewhat minimalistic. For the moment, it amounts to a terminological switch from what was previously known as Asia-Pacific to “Indo-Pacific”. The Obama administration, up to the former president’s last visit to Asia in September 2016, always referred to Asia-Pacific.

Indo-Pacific includes South Asia and the Indian Ocean. So, from an American point of view, that does imply elevating India to the status of a rising global superpower able to “contain” China.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not have stated it more bluntly:

The world’s center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The United States and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential. {1}

 

Attempts to portray it as a “holistic approach” may mask a clear geopolitical swerve where Indo-Pacific sounds like a remix of the Obama era “pivot to Asia” extended to India.

Indo-Pacific directly refers to the Indian Ocean stretch of the Maritime Silk Road, which as one of China’s top connectivity routes, features prominently in “globalization with Chinese characteristics”. As much as Washington, Beijing is all for free markets and open access to commons. But that must not necessarily imply, from a Chinese point of view, a single, vast institutional web overseen by the US.

“Eurasifrica”?

As far as New Delhi is concerned, embracing the Indo-Pacific concept entailed quite a tightrope act.

Last year, both India and Pakistan became formal members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“SCO”), which is a key element of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

India, China, and Russia are BRICS members; the president of the BRICS New Development Bank (“NDB”), headquartered in Shanghai, is Indian. India is a member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (“AIIB”). And until recently India was also participating in BRI.

But then things started to unravel last May when Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to attend the BRI summit in Beijing because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”), a key BRI node that happens to traverse Gilgit-Baltistan and the sensitive region Pakistan defines as Azad Kashmir and India as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

And right on cue, at an African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat, New Delhi unveiled what might be construed as a rival BRI project: the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (“AAGC”) – in partnership with Japan. AAGC {2} could not be more “Indo-Pacific”, actually delineating an Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor, funded by Japan and using India’s know-how of Africa, capable of rivaling – what else – BRI.

For the moment, this is no more than an avowed “vision document” {3} shared by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to do some very BRI-like things, such as developing quality infrastructure and digital connectivity.

And adding to AAGC comes the Quadrilateral {4}, which the Japanese Foreign Ministry spins as projecting “a free and open international order based on the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific”. That once again pits the “stability of Indo-Pacific region” against Tokyo’s perception of “China’s aggressive foreign policy” and “belligerence in the South China Sea” which imperils what the US Navy always describes as “freedom of navigation”.

As much as Xi and Abe may have recently lauded a new start of Sino-Japanese relations, reality says otherwise. Japan, invoking the DPRK threat but actually fearing China’s fast military modernization, will buy more US weapons. At the same time, New Delhi and Canberra are also quite worried about China’s economic/military onslaught.

Essentially, AAGC and the Quadrilateral link India’s Act East Policy {5} with Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy {6}. Reading these documents in tandem, it’s not far-fetched to qualify the Indo-Japanese strategy as aiming for a “Eurasifrica.”

In practice, apart from the expansion in Africa, Tokyo is also driven to expand infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia in cooperation with India – some in competition or overlapping with BRI. The Asian Development Bank (“ADB”), meanwhile, is mulling alternative financing models {7} for infrastructure projects away from BRI.

As it stands, the Quadrilateral is still a work in progress, with its “stability of Indo-Pacific region” pitted against Beijing’s avowed desire to create a “community with a shared future” in the Asia-Pacific. There are reasons to worry that this new configuration might actually evolve into a stark economic/military polarization of Asia.

A Split at the Heart of BRICS

Asia needs a whopping $1.7 trillion in infrastructure projects a year {8}, according to the ADB. In theory, Asia as a whole would benefit from an array of BRI projects coupled with some others that are ADB-financed and AAGC-linked.

Considering the extremely ambitious breath and scope of the whole strategy, BRI enjoys a substantial head start. Beijing’s vast reserves are already geared towards investing in Asia-wide infrastructure in tandem with exporting excess construction capacity and improving connectivity all around.

In contrast, New Delhi barely has enough industrial capacity for India’s own needs. In fact, India badly needs infrastructure investment; according to an extensive report {9}, India’s needs amount to at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. And on top of it, India holds a persistent trade deficit with China.

A tangible would-be success is the Indian investment in Chabahar port in Iran as part of an Afghan trade strategy (see part two of this report). But that’s about it.

Apart from energy/connectivity projects such as the national digital ID Aadhaar system (1.18 billion users) and investing in an array of solar power plants, India has a long way to go. According to the recently published Global Hunger Index (“GHI”), India ranks at 100 out of 119 countries surveyed on child hunger, based on four components: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting, and child stunting. That’s an extremely worrying seven notches below the DPRK. And only seven notches above Afghanistan, at the bottom of the list.

New Delhi would hardly lose if there were a conscious bet on building upon India-China cooperation under the BRICS framework. And that includes accepting that BRI investment is useful and even essential for India’s infrastructure development. The doors remain open. All eyes are on December 10-11, when India will host a trilateral Russia-India-China – all BRICS members – at the ministerial level.

Links:

{1} https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-bluntest-ever-remarks-us-talks-up-india-to-counter-china/articleshow/61136584.cms

{2} https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/india-japan-come-up-with-aagc-to-counter-chinas-obor/articleshow/58846673.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

{3} http://www.eria.org/Asia-Africa-Growth-Corridor-Document.pdf

{4} https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-australia-us-japan-hold-first-meet-on-quadrilateral-coalition/articleshow/61617967.cms

{5} http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=133837

{6} http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000289999.pdf

{7} https://www.adb.org/news/op-ed/project-finance-asia-and-evolving-role-multilateral-development-banks-michael-barrow

{8} https://www.adb.org/publications/asia-infrastructure-needs

{9} https://muse.jhu.edu/article/666558/summary

First published at http://www.atimes.com/article/new-great-game-moves-asia-pacific-indo-pacific/.

Article printed from http://www.counterpunch.org: https://www.counterpunch.org

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/08/the-new-great-game-moves-from-asia-pacific-to-indo-pacific/

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